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All three candidates running for the Board of Supervisors in the county’s northern coastal district says new development needs to be restricted.
They might not have much choice but to say so.
“You would have to be a complete idiot to be openly pro-development,” said Pam Slater-Price, who represented the district for 20 years as a Republican wary of new development.
Indeed, none of the candidates running for her old seat is openly pro-development.
Dave Roberts, the incumbent Democrat from Solana Beach, supports strict development and environmental standards. His opponents, two Republican mayors, Kristin Gaspar from Encinitas and Sam Abed from Escondido, likewise say new housing needs to go in already-developed areas near transportation options.
The area they’re running to represent runs along the coast from Torrey Pines State Beach up to Encinitas and to the east from Mira Mesa to Escondido.
The constituents in this area are mainly Republicans, but progressive Republicans, said Slater-Price. They’re fiscally conservative, but tend to support environmental measures and fiercely defend their neighborhoods against high density and increased traffic.
Roberts, who has represented the district for four years, said it’s crucial to follow existing county guidelines that limit growth to areas where development and public transit already exist.
“Everyone who wants to do development has the right to develop as long as they follow the rules,” Roberts said.
The county currently has several large projects working their way to approval, including the controversial Lilac Hills Ranch project, which is now trying to bypass the Board of Supervisors and go directly to voters.
But as those other projects make their way to a potential board vote, the composition of the five-member board could seal many of their fates. Roberts is seen as a reliable vote against those projects. Gaspar or Abed could shift the balance.
But on the campaign trail, Gaspar’s views aren’t far off from Roberts’.
She says she supports “quality development” – projects that comply with legal requirements and environmental laws. And higher-density or mixed-use projects need to be near transit corridors, she said.
Gaspar said her time in Encinitas has been influential in how she approaches development.
“Everything is controversial in Encinitas,” she said. “It has taught me a lot about patience and keeping a level head. It taught me a lot about being proactive.”
Gaspar said it’s important for developers to meet with community members and neighbors early on, before proposing a project.
“There are things that are reasonable that can be addressed in these projects, but not everything can,” she said.
As mayor of Encinitas, Gaspar has cast a few votes that made development more difficult, but she’s still managed to raise money from developers.
For instance, she voted for policies that undermined a state law requiring cities to give developers the chance to build more market-rate homes if they build a few low-income homes, too. The city is getting sued by local developer David Meyer over the issue, but he also donated $750 to Gaspar’s run.
She also raised $1,500 from major developer Thomas Sudberry of Sudberry Properties, and roughly $4,500 from employees of KD Development and their family members.
While Gaspar’s preached for development in certain locations only, she’s also argued that it’s essential the county makes it cheaper and easier to build in those locations, to make housing cheaper.
“It is unacceptable that 40-plus percent of the cost of building a house is government,” Gaspar said. “We can make housing more affordable simply by making it easier to actually build housing.”
Abed took a harsher tone than Gaspar.
“I am a property rights person, but at the same time, do I support every development?” Abed said. “No.”
Abed said he supports strictly abiding by county and regional planning documents that limit growth to certain parts of the county.
“I think we need to make sure we manage the growth and manage the development,” Abed said. “The county has a general plan and we need to follow it or change it.”
But Abed has overseen a surge in development in Escondido during his mayoral tenure. He said there are 25 significant residential and commercial projects proposed or under construction, worth almost $1 billion and including 1,800 new housing units.
Developers involved in projects in Escondido have supported Abed’s campaign, too.
Employees of Concordia Communities, who are building Safari Ranch Highlands, donated about $4,500 to his campaign. The project is in the unincorporated part of the county but the developers want Escondido to annex the land so it’s in that city instead.
Employees of NCA Real Estate Developers and their family members, which are behind the Latitude 33 and Latitude II projects in downtown Escondido, also contributed about $6,000.
Slater-Price said she thinks Roberts’ stance on development is most in line with those of District 3 constituents.
He’s the only candidate, she said, who openly opposed One Paseo, project in the city of San Diego that the Board of Supervisors had no formal decision-making role over.
As a member of the Encinitas City Council, Gaspar opposed Proposition A, a ballot measure that allows Encinitas residents to vote on any zoning changes made in their city, Slater-Price said. Opposition to the measure was unanimous among the Council at the time.